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Florida migrant flights lawsuit dismissed

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

TALLAHASSEE - Immigrant-advocacy groups have dropped a lawsuit filed after Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration flew 49 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts last year.

Lawyers for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Americans for Immigrant Justice, and Hope CommUnity Center filed a notice Wednesday in federal court in South Florida to dismiss the case. The notice did not detail the reasons, but the lawsuit was based on a now-moot part of the state budget that was used to fund the flights, which sparked a national controversy.

Lawmakers included $12 million in the budget for the Department of Transportation to carry out a "program to facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state."

The DeSantis administration used $615,000 of that money to pay Vertol Systems Company, Inc. to fly the migrants September 14th from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha's Vineyard, with a brief stop in the Northwest Florida community of Crestview.

But with the flights facing a series of legal challenges, the Legislature on February 10th passed a law that effectively sought to neutralize at least some of the arguments. In part, the law repealed the section of the budget that was used to pay for the flights and created a new program, the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program, in state law. Also, the bill funneled the remaining money provided in the budget section back to state coffers and allocated $10 million to the newly created program - effectively swapping out money.

The immigrant-advocacy groups filed the lawsuit on December 1st.

Among other things, they argued that the state improperly infringed on federal authority over immigration issues and violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. "(The section of the budget) impermissibly attempts to implement its own classification and/or characterization of immigration status, by providing an incoherent definition of the term 'unauthorized alien,'" the lawsuit said.

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